Interview With Sony Electronics SVP Of Corporate Marketing Stuart Redsun

Stuart Redsun is a senior vice president for Sony Electronics Inc. He joined Sony’s corporate marketing team in June 2006 to guide marketing initiatives, reporting to the company’s Chief Marketing Officer Mike Fasulo. Redsun is responsible for designing and delivering an overarching brand strategy in support of the U.S. electronics business, coordinating specific marketing plans for such product lines as 3D, VAIO computers, Cyber-shot cameras and BRAVIA televisions. He also develops, directs and coordinates Sony Electronics’ national advertising and promotional campaigns.

Prior to this role he accumulated nearly 20 years experience in brand positioning, marketing and advertising, most recently at mobile service provider Helio where he served as executive vice president of marketing. He has also held high-level brand marketing positions at Motorola, Nike and Gateway. Redsun’s experience includes the development of demand creation programs, managing both consumer and business-focused advertising campaigns, and executing successful global product launches such as the Motorola Razr and the Tiger Woods collection for Nike Golf.

Several months ago, Sony Insider had the opportunity to speak to Stuart shortly after Sony’s 3D launch event at Sony Pictures Studios in Los Angeles. Stuart is a really nice fellow, and I could see the passion for his job and the brand as he spoke. In this interview, we learn more about how a chance meeting eventually led to Stuart working at Sony, his average day, and the challenges of creating marketing campaigns. We discuss the challenges of 3D education and the broad efforts Sony are making to ensure the transition is as smooth as possible for the average consumer.

Amongst many other questions, Stuart also responds to the old 3D adage, “Do I have to wear the glasses?”

His answer may surprise you as there is a subtle hint of what is coming in the future.

SI: So, why don’t you tell us about how you got started with Sony back in June of 2006 and if you can, be as detailed as possible.

Stuart: I was contacted by a friend I knew in San Diego who said that he knows the Sony folks really well, and they were looking for a marketing person so he gave them my name. At the time I had just joined a start up. I wasn’t looking at all for a job and it wasn’t something that had crossed my mind mainly because I had always worked with big companies before, big places, and I was enjoying starting something really small.

I then got a call from a headhunter and he asked if I was interested. I really wasn’t. I kept saying no, kept saying no, and finally the headhunter was like “Look, I’m going to be in L.A. Can I please talk to you?”

I met him and he knew that I knew the brand, that I had tremendous passion for Sony; it was one of the many brands that I always thought I wanted to work for at some point. Sony is emotionally so powerful to consumers and really all you have to say are those four letters and people get what the brand is about through its quality and innovation. So working for Sony was always an interest, but I just wasn’t looking to do anything else. I just kept telling the headhunter “Hey, I’m very happy. Very happy.”

Later on, I was invited by a media company to go to the Grammy awards. I go to the bar (near our suite) during the show, and happen to run into (Sony Electronics USA CMO) Mike Fasulo who also happened to be there.

He said “Who are you? What do you do?”

..and mentioned he worked for Sony and I mentioned “Oh wait!”. I recognized his name.

I told him, “This headhunter has been calling me about this job and I think they report to you!”

We chatted briefly and that was it. A few days later, the headhunter called and said, “Now they really want to meet you!”

Mike and I started talking a lot more and laid out the challenges of what they really wanted to do; I felt that it would be a good decision to come on board. The four years since then seem like one year because it’s gone by so quickly.

SI: What is the average day for you like at Sony from start to finish. I understand it varies greatly but if you can something detailed for our readers.

Stuart: Before I even start my day, I’m still at home going through email because some many of the folks in Tokyo and in other parts of the world have already finished their day. With this in mind, you’ve got a lot of catching up to do, even before you’ve had breakfast or coffee or anything like that.

Once I get to the office, a lot of it is meetings with our product team, or meeting with our management on updating marketing plans. There is also meetings with my team, whether that is the marketing side, or communication side and then a lot of time in a typical day is spent either driving what’s next and what’s coming new.

The NEX camera, for example, posed the question,

“How do we take something that is so innovative, and is such an example of Sony leadership in quality, and do the messaging around how we’ll convey that to the consumer? What will we do online? What we’re gonna do in store?”

My job is to really develop the answers for those kind of questions.

Also, we look at what we’re going to do in social media with the product, or what we’re going to do from a creative advertisement standpoint. The actual creative advertisement aspect is really trying to get the team to imagine, “Okay, if we are the consumer and we are seeing all these key features, what would that look like?”

Those are probably the two largest things that you do throughout the day. I know you have the typical sit meetings, and have lunch, phone calls, etc, but for the most part its trying to boil down to how do we create that excitement for products that are coming close to market.

The most exciting part of this job is when we see something new that is coming soon, such as when we saw 3D for the first time. Now we’re at the point where its all coming to market, but when we first saw the initial prototypes we started the aforementioned process. That to me is the most exciting time, because that is when the juices start creatively flowing in your head. At Sony, the great part is we always have all the innovation, and all the technical prowess over the competition. My job basically answers the question of “How do we tell that story in the most exciting way?”

SI: How long does it normally take to get a new marketing campaign out from conception (in the pit) to the public?

Stuart: Well, there is a difference between how long the process should take and the time we’ve done campaigns in. Sometimes we set expectations that we can get a new campaign out quickly. It really depends on the scale of what we’re really trying to accomplish. We’ve done certain things relatively in a matter of weeks that have been in the early stages of getting consumers to try and give us feedback on something maybe new and different. Something as large scale as what we are doing in 3D, with so many other parts of Sony are involved – pictures, gaming, and music – we really like to look at close to 12 months out to truly develop the full spectrum. That way the campaign feels like Sony in total, and not just one individual product.

SI: So, let’s talk 3D. In the last several years, most people have invested a great deal of money into home theater setups – Including large LCD TVs, home theater receivers and speakers. The transition to 3D in the home will require many people to purchase a new television and new home theater equipment that is 3D capable. How are you handling this task of convincing people to upgrade from a marketing prospective?

Stuart: I think Sony as a whole has always been about really providing a higher level of excitement through all of the products we provide for your entertainment. I think the transition, for some of these people, could really rely on how you tap into the passion points that’s going to excite consumers most… which are music, movies, games and sports. Those are the things that lead the transition of high definition, and will lead to the transition to 3D as more content becomes available. Everyone is going to want to enjoy in 3D because it is so much more immersive. Later this year when more 3D TV channels start up, that will certainly help with adoption, and certainly as more content becomes available that’s what will drive new purchases of 3D products. Sony wants to be there every step of the way to that higher level of entertainment.

SI: So the content will ultimately entice new people.

Stuart: Absolutely, another compelling aspect is the phenomenal PS3 3D gaming experience. Our gaming systems already provide an immersive experience, and stereoscopic 3D takes it even further. So, folks who really want that incredible experience will be first to stock up because its certainly better than 2D gaming. Realistically, not everyone will buy into 3D gaming at first and we realize that.

In the time that I’ve been with Sony, with every transition in new technology, you always have the folks who say, “Hey, my Sony is so good. The quality of my Sony products are so high. I still have a TV from four years ago and it’s brand new and the color better than all my friends’ brand new TVs they buy.”

We hear time and time again that Sony is the pinnacle of quality within consumer electronics. Certainly we will provide the full range of options in 3D depending on that passion point of gaming and sports and music.

SI: Is Sony doing enough to make people aware that 3D TVs are not going to cost five thousand plus dollars? It seems that there’s a stereotype with 3D and high cost. Prices for the newer 3D TVs seem to actually be significantly less than that.

Stuart: This (event) is the kickoff of our 3D education process. The SonyStyle website has been updated with comprehensive information, and our store content has information about why Sony is the highest quality 3D system you can buy. The information we have in place at SonyStyle also demonstrates that 3D available and affordable from Sony. We also are very clear about the range of models and differences between our 3D capable Blu-ray disc players, cameras and televisions. We really feel that as Sony is the leader in home entertainment, and the leader in 3D, we owe it to the industry to really lead that education on how we’re making it affordable.

SI: What is Sony’s response to the everyday consumer saying “Do I have to wear the glasses?”

Stuart: The active active shutter glasses aspect of 3D is another education process. Simply stated, we’re doing 3D right. It’s easy to make bad 3D and we’re all gonna make 3D right. Active shutter glasses really give you that much more of an immersive experience. Certainly the things the engineers in Tokyo are working on far exceed the explaination of what we’re showing now, so certainly in time as we bring 3D out to some of the other product categories, we’ll continue to evolve and push the limits of this technology. We urge consumers really to take a look at the active shutter glasses because they are a much different experience to what consumers have tried in the past.

SI: I’ve polled dozens of average everyday people and very few seem to actually know about active shutter glasses. How does Sony hope people understand the difference between the active shutter 3D glasses and the polarized 3D glasses that many have used in theaters?

Stuart: The big advantage that Sony has in that process is that we have already done millions of demos in our SonyStyle stores. We’ve let people come in since January and educated them over what the active shutter glasses do, what they enable you to do. Or, how our glasses are superior because they block out all the ambient light that get in and ruin the 3D experience. From that hands-on education standpoint, we’ll continue to transfer that knowledge to other retail locations about the glasses.

SI: Will we see advertisements for Sony 3D TVs in Sony movies, perhaps before the movies? What about direct placement of the 3D TV within a movie, such as a short scene of dialogue where the characters in a movie are hanging out watching 3D TV?

Stuart: The benefits of being part of Sony compared to any other CE manufacturer is we’re already having those discussions. Not just in movies, but Sony Pictures TV shows, our games so you’ll see a lot of that upcoming from Sony as well.

SI: Will we see Sony 3D marketing representatives at major consumer electronic stores to help consumers with their 3D purchases?

Stuart: Absolutely! We have hundreds of reps. We’re doing whats called “the Sony 3D experience,” where we’re actually going out and educating consumers on the retail floors about the quality advantage Sony 3D has over the competition. We’re gonna be doing thousands of events between now and the end of the year, and even more in the future years to truly educate people why Sony is better but also why 3D is just that much more of an immersive experience.

This is the biggest retail demonstration that we’ve executed since HD, which is pretty significant.

SI: What is your favorite Sony product of all time, perhaps even one you used when you were younger?

Stuart: The yellow Sports Walkman (ed note: model number not given). I remember purchasing it because I wanted to get in shape and start running. I had to have it and I saved my money. I think it was around eighty dollars, and was the most I’d ever paid for anything in my life.

It was such a big purchase, and was so monumental to me because that was the first time I think I went into what I’d call “adulthood.” I’d made a major purchase. People purchasing cars or houses, right? This Walkman to me was that type of thing.

At the time it felt like, “Alright, this is me making a purchase now and not borrowing, begging or asking.”

It enabled me to listen to music outside of the home, or the car, and was perfect for getting in shape. Running with the Walkman made me feel more motivated. It certainly didn’t help me run much faster, but exercising was much more enjoyable.

SI: What does make.believe mean to you?

Stuart: make.believe is really something that has always been the vision of why Sony was founded. To me, here’s something you can imagine – my Walkman, for example. I wanted to run with music, right? Sony was able to do that. To me, all we did was dust off that spirit and try to give it meaning. To me it means as an employee, my goal is to deliver on that promise the founders started, which was being able to excite more people about the amazing things they can do to bring entertainment into their lives. That to me is really what make.believe is all about.

Thanks to Stuart Redsun for taking the time to talk to us, as well as Ana Reyes and James Ferrie for their help with this interview.

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